WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Cory Gardner issued a rebuke of President Trump and the administration on Tuesday, criticizing the administration's actions and policies on North Korean diplomacy as a failure that has emboldened the communist regime.
"It should now be abundantly clear to even a casual observer that ‘summit diplomacy’ over the past 18 months has failed to convince Kim Jong Un to abide by international law, but has only lessened the pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize," Gardner said in a subcommittee meeting on foreign relations.
"Our sanctions policy has been inconsistent, which has left significant enforcement gaps that North Korea and its enablers continue to exploit. The cancellation and downgrading of our military exercises have weakened our defense posture in East Asia, which has only emboldened the madman in Pyongyang."
Although calling the last year of diplomacy a failure, Gardner did not offer a total break with the White House, saying that the Trump administration's policy had been "an earnest effort of diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang.”
Nevertheless, Gardner, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, voiced his "sincere disappointment" that the White House denied repeated requests to provide a witness for the hearing titled, "North Korea Policy One Year After Hanoi."
The Hanoi Summit was a two-day talk between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in the last days of February 2019 in Vietnam. Trump ultimately cut the talks short.
"Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump said at a post-summit news conference. "They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that."
Gardner's reproof comes less than a week after he campaigned alongside the president in Colorado Springs and Trump offered unalloyed praise for the freshman senator as Gardner is preparing for a long year fighting for reelection.
"You are going to help us get Cory Gardner across that line because he’s been with us 100 percent" Trump said at the rally. "There was no waver. He’s been with us. There was no waver with Cory and we appreciate that."
Gardner’s stance also comes at a time when the White House has been engaged in loyalty battles on numerous fronts, and Trump's Department of Justice has been roiled by accusations that it has been turned into a political arm of the president.
In his work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Gardner has an established history as a hawk against Kim Jung Un's communist regime.
In March of 2017, for example, Gardner told a Colorado radio station he would be likely to favor a "total and complete" economic embargo on North Korea. Those comments came at a time when the Trump administration had held no summits at all with the regime and Rex Tillerson was still Secretary of State.